Organizing Your Bulletin Board

Bulletin board crowded with too many notes.

Do you have a bulletin board? If so, and if it is nearby, take a moment now to look at it. What words would you use to describe it? On the positive side, perhaps you might choose:

  • Inspirational
  • Funny
  • Handy
  • Helpful
  • Relevant
  • Sentimental

On the negative side, your thoughts might run to words such as:

  • Messy
  • Hard to read
  • Layered
  • Sloppy
  • Out of Date

Some may say, “Does it really matter what my bulletin board looks like as long as it holds what I need?” Admittedly, a bulletin board does not consume much workspace. In fact, its ability to take advantage of vertical space is one of the reasons that a bulletin board is so useful. However, it is important to remember that visual cues, like the ones on a bulletin board, are only effective if they can be seen.

In the world of bulletin boards, I find both of these perspectives often apply.  Bulletin boards are one of those spaces to which we frequently add and from which we seldom subtract. As is true for all places in our homes, this equation will ultimately result in an undesirable and dysfunctional system.

For instance, look at the rendering below of an average bulletin board.

Crowded bulletin board

What you might quickly notice is that the various items on the board are crowded, overlapping, and hanging crookedly. This is the way most bulletin boards look, and the “feel” of a board like this is one of chaos and confusion. If the goal of a bulletin board is to be a space where you can look up and find inspiration, refreshment, and/or information, this arrangement is falling short.

Let’s look a little closer. Notice in the next image that only the six pieces in red can actually be fully seen, and therefore accessed.

Bulletin board with only a few pages visible.

In contrast, the six pieces in green are obscured to the point that they can hardly be seen at all. As a result, having these items hanging on the bulletin board is worthless.

Bulletin board with many pages completely covered

Lastly, the remaining pieces, which appear in purple in this fourth image, are only partially visible.  We may be able to dig them out enough to read them, but this will require that we stand up and lift or move some pieces out of the way. Not only is this a hassle, but it may also cause us to dislodge other pieces in the process and cause a bit of an avalanche. When we have to exert effort to access what we need, the system is cumbersome and ineffective.

Bulletin board with many pages only partially visible.

The best approach to organizing a bulletin board is to regularly circulate materials on and off. This doesn’t have to be something you do every day or even every week. Organizing your bulletin board once a quarter or when the seasons change is a good rule of thumb.

The “how to” for this project is pretty straight forward. First, take everything off of the bulletin board. When I say everything, I mean each and every last thing, including the pushpins that you can corral in a container. The goal is to be looking at this.

Cleared bulletin board

As you remove the items, pile them into categories. For example, you may have a pile of photographs, schedules, reminders, children’s artwork, phone numbers, codes, instructions, etc.

Now look through each pile and remove anything you no longer want to be hanging on your board. There are a number of reasons why an item doesn’t warrant being rehung. Maybe the information is out of date, or perhaps it has just been hanging there so long that it no longer inspires the emotional response that it once did.  Pieces may also be faded, ripped, or otherwise damaged.

If you happen to have passwords on your bulletin board, I suggest you store them elsewhere, in a less public and more secure location, such as a locked drawer or a digital password manager.

Now it is time to reload. When hanging items on a bulletin board, follow these four guidelines:

#1. Hang pieces by the top TWO corners.

Unless the piece is very rigid or small, hanging it by only one thumbtack will result in the paper hanging crookedly and potentially curling in on the edges, both unattractive.

#2. If possible, use either clear plastic or monochromatic pins.

You want the content of the displayed pieces to be what stands out, not the pins themselves.

#3. Leave “breathing space” between pieces.

You want to be able to see the cork (or other background surface) between the pieces.

#4. Keep items within the bulletin board’s frame.

Don’t hang anything in such a way that it appears to “leave the picture” and migrate outside of the board and onto the wall.

These principles may sound silly, but they really do help you craft a space that is both functional and visually appealing. When you are finished, you should have a result that looks something like this:

Organized Bulletin Board

Now you might be thinking, “If I make my bulletin board look like this, I won’t be able to fit everything I need there.” My first reaction is to suggest that you give it a try. You may discover you need less than you thought.

However, if you sort all the materials and they simply will not fit, I recommend that you establish other locations for some of the items. For example, less attractive pieces can be taped to the inside of a cabinet door where they are still accessible but less visible. Or, you might decide to photograph some of the more “data” oriented pieces and keep the photographic record in a folder or on your phone. You might want to go so far as to hang a second display board in a nearby location.

Just remember that layering the information makes it hard to find, and therefore is not a good approach. Aim to be able to easily view whatever it is you decide to hang up.

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Do you have a bulletin board? How would you describe it?

23 thoughts on “Organizing Your Bulletin Board”

  1. Totally have a bulletin board for my girls’ school notices. And I have had it for the last few years. So, I have thankfully perfected how I hang items on it similar to how you actually described towards the end of this article. So, I couldn’t agree with you more as having things neat and readable on that board has made a world of difference totally.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…4 Tips On What To Do When Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Is CrowdedMy Profile

    1. I’d love to see a photo of your girls’ board, Janine! This is especially critical when you are trying to keep track of where the kids go, right?

  2. I love these practical tips! I have an inspirational bulletin board which I always leave space between items. I can always see my additions. No space means something has to leave. Simple rules make this all work!

    1. The principle is just the same as it is with a drawer, closet, bin or shelf. When the space is stuffed, it is time to empty it out and make some space. We tend to forget about our display boards, but they are just as important. The good news is, this is one little project that most people can do quite quickly and experience a great payoff:)

  3. Terrific tips, Seana. I have two boards. One is a white board where I can scribble ideas and immediate ‘to-dos’ that I want to see and have reminders. The other is a large bulleting board where I post inspirational writings, pictures, and birthdays. I use both regularly and frequently erase things from my white board and remove things from my bulletin board. Love them both!
    Diane N. Quintana recently posted…Thinking About Our VeteransMy Profile

    1. I wonder if we are better at “erasing” from a whiteboard than removing paper from a bulletin board. It is pretty hard to write one thought over another, but easier to tack up one piece of paper over another. You’ve got me thinking this morning, Diane!

    1. They aren’t for everyone. Many people prefer a window or clear surface. I love that we are all different. All that matters is that your space works for you!

    1. Agreed! When everything runs together, the eye struggles a bit to focus. I hope your children like these ideas. If they decide to give it a try, send me the “before” and “after” photos!

  4. Good analysis of how to use a bulletin board correctly. I love it. I don’t have a bulletin board. They just don’t work for me. I need to review items more often (like once a week) to remind myself and plan my next action. So I prefer to keep any paperwork with my calendar.

  5. These are great tips, Seana! I love the images in this article! My bulletin board is used for inspirational images, and I make sure there’s space in between the pictures. I actually have a magnetic dry-erase board that I use more often to stick the papers I’m currently or frequently using, and to write lists and notes. I clear it off regularly, so it never gets overwhelming.
    Nancy Haworth recently posted…Organizing After Your Spouse has Passed AwayMy Profile

    1. I’m learning that the magnetic dry-erase boards are very popular as I read the comments. Not surprised to hear that you clear it off regularly, being a professional:) Having that space between pictures really does make a world of difference!

  6. I like your suggestion! I don’t have one but we just (a day ago!) made one for scarlet and it makes her ridiculously happy. I look forward to seeing how she arranges it and maybe offering gentle guidance.

  7. I have a bulletin board and use it sort of like a memory board. It has very few items that I need to do something with. I am particular about what gets added and I make sure that I can fully see all everything. It’s one of my favorite things in my office because it adds a bit of color and simply makes me smile. Not sure if it really counts as a real bulletin board, though. LOL =)
    Deb Lee recently posted…iPad Productivity: 5 Ways a Tablet Can Help CEOs Get More DoneMy Profile

    1. It definitely counts! I love your phrase, “I’m very particular about what gets added.” That is such a great approach, because it ensures that you will enjoy looking at the board. This is a great principle for whatever we allow into our lives. I feel the same way about my board, in that it is a bit “softer” than the other items in my workspace. A bit of color, a bit of decoration, a bit of inspiration, and some items that are rounder and softer. This is the same reason why I always have a plant on my desk!

  8. Such great reminders for anyone with a bulletin board. My favorite is to leave breathing room – it’s the key to a bullet board that really works for you.

  9. Pingback: 15 Things to Toss for a Stress Free Home Office | Sabrinas Organizing

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